John Burdett is a nonpracticing lawyer who worked in Hong Kong for a British firm until he found his true vocation as a writer. He has also lived in France, Spain, and Thailand. He is the author of A Personal History of Thirst, The Last Six Million Seconds, Bangkok 8, Bangkok Tattoo, Bangkok Haunts and The Godfather of Kathmandu.
From author J. Sydney Jones' interview with Burdett about the setting for his Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep novels:
What things about Thailand that make it unique and a good physical setting in your books?The Page 69 Test: The Godfather of Kathmandu.
Thailand is unique in so many ways, it is probably easier to refer to history. Although Siam was invaded briefly by the Japanese in WWII, and was subject to a British Resident during the colonial period, alone amongst its neighbours in SE Asia it was never colonised, its people never made to feel that their culture was inferior to that of invading imperialists. You end up with a traditional Buddhist attitude, with Buddhist values, bang in the middle of the 3rd millennium. Sure, you could cite countries like Bhutan or Nepal as being in similar circumstances, but what is impressive about Thailand is that it simultaneously nurtures a hip, high-tech, consumeristic culture in Bangkok : Bronze Age mysticism with silicon chips.
Did you consciously set out to use Bangkok and Thailand as a “character” in your books, or did this grow naturally out of the initial story or stories?
I don’t believe you can use Bangkok in a novel without it becoming a character. The power of the city is irresistible both to foreigners and to immigrants from the countryside, not to mention...[read on]